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Politics & Law

All at sea over disputed waters


China faces difficulty in alleviating tensions in the South China Sea because of contrasting mandates and a lack of co-ordination among its own government agencies, according to a study conducted by an international non-governmental group that strives to prevent conflicts.

The International Crisis Group said in a report it will release today, and which was seen by the South China Morning Post yesterday, that Beijing had shown a willingness to resolve the disputes through a moderate approach. But the effectiveness of those efforts had been hindered by the absence of an overarching policy executed uniformly throughout different levels of government.

The report comes as China and the Philippines are embroiled in escalating tensions, with Manila and Beijing accusing each other of undermining sovereignty near the Scarborough Shoal – or Huangyan Island – a group of islands and reefs to which both nations lay claim. The United States and Manila launched two weeks of naval drills a week ago, triggering a strong reaction from Beijing.

A commentary by the People’s Liberation Army Daily published on Saturday warned that the US-Philippines drills had raised the risk of an armed confrontation over the disputed waters. The Pentagon has insisted the drill is a regular exercise “not tied to any current situation”.

The crisis group’s report said the Chinese navy’s use of maritime tensions to justify its modernisation, coupled with nationalistic sentiment among mainlanders, complicated the issue. But the more immediate risk of conflict stemmed from the growing number of law-enforcement and paramilitary vessels that were playing an increasing role in the dispute without a clear legal framework.

“The conflicting mandates and lack of co-ordination among Chinese government agencies have stoked tensions in the South China Sea, and many of them are using this issue to try to increase their power and budget,” the report said.

It also said China had a “bulky bureaucracy”, which included 11 ministerial-level government agencies, dealing with the territorial disputes. Yet many of them had no knowledge of the diplomatic landscape and showed little interest in promoting the national foreign policy agenda.

Nor does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) have the authority or resources to manage other government agencies, particularly the People’s Liberation Army, according to the report. “Another key problem is that the PLA significantly outranks the MFA in China’s bureaucratic hierarchy, making co-ordination of South China Sea policy through the ministry impossible,” it said.

On some occasions, the Foreign Ministry relied on Western diplomats for information regarding the navy’s activities in the South China Sea.

And the lack of co-ordination continued within the foreign ministry, particularly since the US got involved in 2009, as departments overseeing North American and ocean affairs must be consulted, along with the Asian affairs department, on anything related to the disputes.

“All of this inter-departmental competition makes it harder to achieve internal consensus on South China Sea issues and weakens the already limited effectiveness of the Foreign Ministry in managing disputes,” the report said.

The disputes have also become complicated by attempts to expand economic activities such as tourism in the disputed areas “due to [the local governments’] single-minded focus on economic growth”.

“Yet despite the domestic nature of their motivations, the implications of their activities are increasingly international,” the report said.

Teddy Ng
South China Morning Post

About chankaiyee2

Author of the book "Tiananmen's Tremendous Achievements" about how with the help of Tiananmen Protests, talented scholars with moral integrity seized power in the Party and state and brought prosperity to China. The second edition of the book will be published within a few days to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Protests All the parts in the first edition remain in the second edition with a few changes due to information available later and better understanding. There are also some changes for improvements of style. The new parts are Chapters 12-19 on events in China after the first edition was published: The fierce power struggle for succession between reformists and conservatives; Xi Jinping winning all elders’ support during his mysterious disappearance for 2 weeks in early September, 2012; and Xi Jinping Cyclone. Chan Kai Yee's new book: SPACE ERA STRATEGY: The Way China Beats The US An eye-opening book that tells the truth how the US is losing to China. The US is losing as it adopts the outdated strategy of Air-Sea Battle while China adopts the space era strategy to pursue integrated space and air capabilities: It is losing due to its diplomacy that has given rise to Russian-Chinese alliance. US outdated strategy has enabled China to catch up and surpass the US in key weapons: Hypersonic weapons (HGV) that Pentagon regards as the weapon that will dominate the world in the future. Aerospaceplane in China’s development of space-air bomber that can engage enemy anywhere in the world within an hour and destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group within minutes. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ASAT weapons, stealth aircrafts, drones, AEW&C, etc. The book gives detailed descriptions of China’s weapon development based on information mainly from Chinese sources that the author monitors closely. U.S. Must Not Be Beaten by China! China is not a democracy. Its political system cannot prevent the emergence of a despotic leader or stop such a leader when he begins to bring disasters to people. A few decades ago, Mao Zedong, the worst tyrant in world history did emerge and bring disasters to Chinese people. He wanted to fight a nuclear war to replace capitalism with communism but could not bring nuclear holocaust to world people as China was too weak and poor at that time. If a despot like Mao Zedong emerges when China has surpassed the US in military strength, world people will suffer the misery experienced by Chinese people in Mao era. China surpassing the US in GDP is not something to worry about as China has the heavy burden to satisfy its huge population, but China surpassing the US in military strength will be world people’s greatest concern if China remains an autocracy. US people are of much better quality than Chinese people. What they lack is a wise leader to adopt the correct strategy and diplomacy and the creative ways to use its resources in developing its military capabilities. I hope that with the emergence of a great leader, the US can put an end to its decline and remain number one in the world. China, US, space era strategy, air-sea battle, space-air bomber, arms race, weapon development, chan kai yee

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